Graphic: Is there trouble ahead for our fine city of Norwich?
08:00 28 January 2014
It has one of the UK’s most buoyant retail economies and proudly proclaims itself ‘a fine city’ but a new report highlights some worrying economic trends for Norwich. Stephen Pullinger reports.
A new survey has highlighted the stark fact that the UK’s economic recovery is widening the gap between London and other cities - with almost 10 times more jobs being created in the capital than the next best area.
However, while it is easy to imagine the struggle of some other cities around the country, the findings of the report by the Centre for Cities think tank could surely not apply to Norwich, you might well think.
A city with a booming shopping centre and world class research park must be close to the top of the league table, surely?
In fact, the survey shows Norwich lagging behind in respect of several key economic indicators.
The rate of business start-ups last year across the city was less than half that of London’s and significantly behind the national average (32.76 per 10,000 compared to 42.30 for the UK generally).
The Norwich figure for business patents granted per 100,000 - reflecting entrepreneurship - was just 5.39 compared to 68.69 in Cambridge, the best in the country.
And average weekly earnings in Norwich also lagged well behind the UK average (£444.73 compared to £502.20) and were light years behind London’s figure of £634.14.
Reassuringly, the report also has comforting statistics that reflect Norwich’s position as a great place to live and work.
The city’s employment rate (74pc) bettered the UK average (71pc) while its percentage of unemployment benefit claimants (2.63) was also below the UK average of 3.
A measure of life satisfaction in Norwich (7.54) was also better than the national average (7.45). Our Suffolk neighbours Ipswich came out top for the whole of the United Kingdom.
Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (Lep), highlighted the significance of the Norwich City Deal - signed last month by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and minister for cities Greg Clark - in addressing issues raised by the report.
He said central to the deal, intended to create 13,000 jobs, would be increasing the number of high-tech businesses and start-up companies and creating high value jobs, through the development of clusters around Norwich Research Park, Norwich University of the Arts and Norwich International Airport.
To deliver this, New Anglia LEP had been awarded £3.9 million for its business growth programme.
He said: “The figures published by Centre for Cities shows why we have targeted business growth and enterprise in our City Deal.
“It will have a major, positive impact on the figures that were published in the Centre for Cities Report. It is exactly what Norwich and the surrounding area needs to help stimulate start-up businesses, accelerate growth and create high value jobs.”
Norwich MP Chloe Smith chose to highlight a finding in the report which showed a net migration of people from London to Norwich, compared to the reverse in the case of many cities.
She said: “The figures show that people want to come to Norwich. Actually, if you compare the figures for Cambridge, a smaller city than us, it seems to show that up to four times as many people may have left that city for London.
“Of course some in their 20s go to a bigger city for the obvious draws of that, and indeed I did that myself when I turned 18 in rural Norfolk.
“But the point is that you can get on in Norwich too. The good jobs news that we see for the city, including the jobs that we hope will be generated through the City Deal, show that Norwich does have those opportunities.”
Ian Hacon, president of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said indicators that Norwich was not growing as fast as some other places reflected the fact the recession had not been as deep in our area.
He said the the Chamber’s thriving and increasing membership was a litmus of Norfolk’s improving economic situation.